The West Bengal government on Friday linked 57 deaths to Covid-19, but said 39 of these were due to co-morbidities in patients who had contracted the virus, NDTV reported. Officially, the state had reported only 18 deaths so far, including three on Friday.
The state’s audit committee said that only 18 of the 57 deaths were caused due to Covid-19, four days after a central team landed in the state to examine the implementation of the national lockdown and the Covid-19 situation. The inter-ministerial central team, or IMCT, had on Thursday asked for details from the state’s audit committee.
“We had requested the audit committee for a report on Covid-19-related deaths,” Sinha said during a briefing, according to ANI. “Out of [the] 57 deaths that have been audited by the committee, they have certified that 18 deaths were due to the virus and 39 were due to severe co-morbid conditions and Covid-19 was incidental finding.”
Meanwhile, the central team wanted to know if the committee of doctors set up to certify deaths due to the coronavirus was recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research.
In a letter to West Bengal Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha earlier on Friday, the central team’s head Apurba Chandra asked for records of all Covid-19 cases in which the committee of doctors did not attribute the deaths to the virus, ANI reported.
The letter said that Principal Secretary (Health) Vivek Kumar, in his presentation to the IMCT on Thursday, provided some reasons for forming the committee of doctors. According to the IMCT, the principal secretary said that “if a Covid-19 patient dies in a road accident, he cannot be said to have died of the coronavirus”.
However, Chandra said the central team did not find this explanation convincing. “The IMCT did not find the reasoning convincing as there is no comparison between a road death and a death in a hospital due to a disease,” Chandra told Sinha.
He said the IMCT wants to interact with the committee of doctors to understand its methodology. “We would like to know whether such a committee is in line with ICMR guidelines or medical practice,” Chandra added.
Sinha on Friday announced that the audit committee had confirmed three more deaths, PTI reported. Sinha said a total of 8,933 samples have been tested for the coronavirus till now in the state.
The Mamata Banerjee-led government and the Centre have been engaged in a political war of words over the deployment of IMCT teams to West Bengal. On April 20, Banerjee complained to Union Home Minister Amit Shah that the state had not been consulted before the teams were sent in. She told Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a letter that sending teams to review the lockdown was a “breach of protocol”.
The two IMCT teams deployed to West Bengal complained that they were not being given access to certain regions. Following this, the Centre directed the state authorities to let the teams perform their work properly.
On Wednesday, the chief minister claimed that the Centre had sent faulty testing kits to West Bengal. Banerjee said the Centre has withdrawn these kits, so no testing could be carried out except with antigen kits, which the state hospitals did not possess.
West Bengal has so far officially reported 514 cases of the coronavirus, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.